As they tried to continue gaining ground on the Indians in the American League Central division, the Royals on Saturday turned the ball over to Jakob Junis, the sophomore pitcher who’s been their most reliable starter this season.
After cruising through five innings having only allowed two runs, the stone-faced Junis began to show some cracks.
And Francisco Lindor, one of the most dynamic players in the league, took advantage of them.
The Indians shortstop was perfect at the plate and provided two spirit-crushing blows in the Royals’ 6-2 loss at Progressive Field.
"You gotta really execute pitches," manager Ned Yost said. "You make just a slight little variation off of what you’re trying to accomplish, they’re gonna hit it hard somewhere."
Lindor opened the floodgates in the sixth inning. He led off the frame with a double into left field. He scored moments later, when Michael Brantley scooped Junis’ vaunted slider to right field for a tie-breaking double, and gave the Indians a 3-2 lead.
In the next inning, Lindor hit a solo home run off Royals reliever Kevin McCarthy to extend the Indians’ lead to 5-2.
In all, Lindor hit two doubles and two homers. He became the first Indians player to record four extra-base hits in a game since Tito Francona, the late father of Indians manager Terry Francona, did so on July 3, 1964.
And Junis, who entered with a rotation-best 3.18 ERA, exited after having allowed four runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings.
"I had good stuff today," Junis said. "I think the key was a couple of those innings. Lindor led off with some doubles. It’s always tough to have a guy on second with no outs and keep him off the scoreboard. He had a great game today, taking it to all fields, and did a good job."
The Royals, only able to muster two runs on eight hits off Indians starter Mike Clevinger, fell to 13-26 on the season.